I’m a fan of military surplus firearms, of all kinds – unfortunately, there aren’t too many in my meager gun collection. Once again, everyone believes that because I’m a writer – mostly about firearms and knives, that I have a huge collection. But in fact I don’t. I can’t afford all of the guns I’d love to have, so I’m a habitual gun trader. My local FFL dealer recently purchased two huge gun collections, and they obtained quite a few M1 Garands and M1 Carbines in these collections. I’d love to own one of each, especially since those are in original condition – not rebuilt. However, I simply can’t afford the price tags on either model – even the lowest priced models are out of my financial reach. So, I settle for less — not less quality, but lesser prices.
I’ve long admired Star Firearms – long out of business – and the outstanding handguns that they produced. I owned a couple of the Star PD .45 ACP pistols over the years, and wish I had kept at least one of them. But I had never owned a Star BM 9mm handgun, for some strange reason – until recently.
The Star BM 9mm, is of course, a 9mm chambered handgun, and the outward appearance resembles that of a 1911 Commander .45 ACP handgun. However, that’s where all the similarities end. The Star is a completely different gun design from top to bottom, yet it is a solid handgun for police, military, or civilian use. J&G Sales in Arizona obtained some Star BM 9mm pistols via Century Arms International that were brought into the USA from Spain some time ago. They had three grades of the BM, with the “worse” of the batch graded by J&G as in “good” condition. A word here, about J&G and their grading of used guns. I’ve been in the firearms community for half a century, and over that time, I’ve purchased some used guns from J&G. Generally, I’ve found their grading to be one step below how other many other outlets describe guns. For instance, a gun graded as “good” is most likely just in “fair” condition, and one as “very good” is probably in “good” condition – just my two cents worth.
Recently, I was about to order one of the BMs from J&G in “very good” condition, when I spied a BM at my local FFL dealer – they were asking $339 – I got it for $300 out the door. This sample I bought is in like-new condition – only a very few wear marks on some of the deep, rich bluing. Even the black plastic grips were in excellent condition. It also came in the original box and had a cleaning rod, as well as a photocopy of the original owner’s manual. This BM came from Spain, and was one issued to their Guardia Civil – which is their vaguely paramilitary national police force.
As and aside, the Star BM model also saw service with the Rhodesian military in fairly large numbers. The Rhodesians probably would have preferred to procure Browning Hi-Powers, but they were under a UN arms embargo. Beggars can’t be choosers. By the way, if you ever find a pre-1982 gun with an electropen-engraved number starting with an “RA” prefix, then jump on it. This marking can sometimes be found on FALs, L1A1s, Portugeuse G3s, 9mm HI-Powers, Webleys, .303 Lee-Enfields, and Star BMs–among others. The “RA” prefix means that you’ve probably found a genuine piece of Rhodesian Bush War history.
A close look at this handgun shows a barrel that is 4.25-inches long – just like a 1911 Commander. It has small, fixed sights on it – my aged eyes could barely see the all black/blue front sight, so a touch of bright orange nail polish on it made it stand out. The fixed rear sight is also smallish – just like on a genuine 1911 – but I can see it. As already mentioned, the gun has a very deep blue finish on it – and it is all steel. It reminds me of may of the guns made in the 1950s and 1960s – where such a lustrous deep blue finish was applied. Not a terribly durable finish, but very handsome, to say the least.
The frame has a beautiful blue finish on it, and the trigger, is a pivoting one. The genuine 1911 and it’s true clones all have a trigger that slides back and forth – one of the few handguns I’m aware of that has this feature. The Star BM’s trigger is chromed, and the trigger pull broke right at 4.5-pounds after a small amount of take-up. That is outstanding trigger pull for a gun made in 1977. By the way, that date is stamped on the trigger guard, the year it was manufactured. We have a decent-sized spur hammer, with an external profile just like on a 1911, and a single side thumb safety – a little bit stiff to work putting the safety “on” but easy to press it down, with your thumb to put the gun in the “fire” position. With a good cleaning, the thumb safety started to work much more easily when applying it. So, the BM can be carried in the cocked ‘n locked position. The safety disengages the sear, unlike the safety on a 1911 that blocks trigger movement to the rear.
Unlike a real 1911, there is no grip safety, and I for one appreciate this part of the handgun’s design. The 8-round magazine doesn’t fall free when you press the mag release, it was designed that way. However, if you don’t like this feature, you can remove it by taking the right grip panel off and pulling this little piece out and then the mags will indeed fall free. Many European military and police like the idea of retaining the mag in the gun – so they can pull it free, and then put it in a pocket. The mag comes down about half an inch, and stops, then you have to manually pull it out of the grip of the gun. Each BM 9mm only comes with one magazine. However they are readily available from J&G Sales – a bit spendy – at $39.99 each – but it is worth it to have at least one extra magazine.
Being all-steel, the BM weighs in at 34-ounces, it feels sooooo heavy, compared to today’s polymer-framed handguns. However, when you heft the BM up to eye level and fire it, there isn’t much recoil to speak of, because of the weight of the pistol – nice. Not that I’ve ever found the 9mm round to be punishing, but some shooters do. The black plastic grips are finely checkered and allow a good purchase on the gun. However, I wanted something better. Once again, I turned to J&G Sales, and found they are selling beautiful, just gorgeous Cocobolo grips. I ordered a pair, along with another spare mag and a nice Kydex holster that can be worn inside the pants, or outside the pants, and they BM fit great it there. if you order all three together, the holster, a spare magazine, and the grips, then J&G has a great package deal – well worth it. The wood grips really added a touch of class to this old workhorse of a pistol.
A Trip to the Range
So, how did this ol’ timer shoot? Quite well, matter of fact. It shot a lot, and I mean, a lot better than I thought it would. From the nice folks at Black Hills Ammunition – they sent me the following 9mm ammo for my testing: 115-gr JHP +P, 124-gr JHP +P, 115-gr FMJ, 115-gr EXP (Extra Power) HP, 124-gr JHP, 115-gr Barnes Tac-XP +P and their 100-gr HoneyBadger +P ammo. Be sure to think about Black Hills ammo for your next ammo purchase, without their kind assistance, I wouldn’t be doing many firearms articles – the cost of ammo at the store – especially these days – is a lot of money. And, they only produce “premium” ammo – not cheap stuff.
I fired more than 300 rounds through this BM, with the assistance of my wife, and she absolutely fell in love with the gun, the way it felt and fit her hand, as well as the outstanding single-action trigger pull – she wants one of her own, now! There was not a malfunction of any kind, not even a hind of a bobble – quite frankly, I was more than a little surprised since this gun was set-up to fire FMJ ammo.
All shooting was done, for accuracy, over a sleeping bag that I keep in the back of my pick-up truck, in my emergency box, over the hood of my rig. The target was out at 25-yards, and my groups were all hovering around 3.5-inches – some were smaller, but none were much bigger than 3.5-inches – that’s great accuracy from a small military-style pistol if you ask me. The overall winner was the 124-gr JHP load – and I’ve always found this load to be very accurate in any pistols I’ve put it in. The +P loads – I could just barely feel the difference in recoil when firing them – mainly due to the weight of the gun. My wife couldn’t feel any difference at all – then again, I don’t think she was trying – she was just having fun firing the gun – a lot!
My local gun shop still has a couple of the “good” condition Star BMs in stock, and the bluing is worn in a lot of places, however, the two samples I checked out were fully functional in all respects – would make dandy shooters. When I last checked, J&G was selling them for $199.99 – however, keep in mind the shipping to your FFL dealer, as well as the fees they will charge you for transferring the gun to you. Then you should add a second magazine as well. I wouldn’t hesitate to carry my BM sample for self-defense, with the proper self-defense ammo loaded in it – along with a spare mag on my hip. Nor would I hesitate to keep it as a bedside gun. The gun is reliable, accurate and looks mighty fine. Check one out, I think you’ll be as surprised as I was with my sample…and if you don’t mind a “shooter” get one of the “good” graded guns from J&G Sales.
But don’t ask me to sell mine, it’s a keeper!